EU Clampdown On Gas-Guzzling Vans Suffers Setback
Author: Pete Harrison
View of heavy traffic on the Paris ring road, eastern Paris, September 23, 2010 during a nationwide strike over pension reforms.
Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau
Europe's efforts to wean itself off costly oil imports suffered a setback on Tuesday when a European Parliament panel threw out plans for speed-limiters on vans and light trucks.
In the finely balanced vote, the parliament's environment committee approved the main goal of the regulation -- cutting van emissions by around 14 percent to an average of 175 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2016.
But that target is widely seen as unambitious, given rapid gains in efficiency recently by van makers -- 15 percent by Renault's Master van and 13 percent by Mercedes' new Sprinter van.
"By resisting efficiency targets that it can easily reach, the car industry is destroying the climate and prolonging Europe's addiction to oil," said Greenpeace environment campaigner Franziska Achterberg.
Speed-limiters are devices, which proponents say can be cheaply and easily fitted to vehicles, that would have prevented vans and light trucks from exceeding 120 km per hour, improving fuel efficiency.
Parliament sought to protect automakers, which suffered a 13 percent hit to sales in 2009 due to the economic crisis.
But it was accused of overlooking the EU's own climate protection goals and the interests of millions of small businesses that would have benefited from efficient vans to save on fuel bills.
A long-term target of 135 grams per kilometer by 2020 was softened slightly to 140 grams.
The regime of fines for automakers that fail to comply was eased to 95 euros per gram of excess CO2 from an original proposal of 120 euros.
The diluted proposal gained 32 votes in favor, with 25 against.
The entire parliament will vote in November, and the European Union's 27 member governments will also have their say before the proposal becomes law.
(Editing by Jane Baird)